Presidential Executive Orders: The Basics

Scarcely a day goes by without reports of the latest executive orders signed by President Biden. Perhaps it is time for a short review of what they are and what they are not.

Presidential executive orders are how the President manages the executive branch of government. Although they are not specifically provided for in the Constitution, they primarily fall under Article 2, which vests in the president the general power to see that our laws are faithfully executed. Executive orders are not laws but can often have the force of law. They can only be overturned by the Supreme Court upon a finding that the order was unconstitutional or by Congress voting to enact laws that override the executive order (provided the legislation survives a presidential veto).

Every president since George Washington has issued executive orders. George issued 8. Franklin D. Roosevelt, at 3,721 over his 12 years in office, has the distinction of having issued the most. FDR also holds the record for issuing the most executive orders in his first month in office: 30. President Biden, at 28 in his first two weeks, is on track to exceed that. Remember also that executive orders are in addition to presidential memoranda, proclamations, and letters (10, 4 and 2, respectively, for President Biden, so far).

Perhaps the most famous executive order (and proclamation) is the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln on September 22, 1862.

You can read more about the executive orders here.

Having a problem figuring out if or how a presidential executive order might apply to you or your business? We can help. Call our office at (248) 477-6300.

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